It lacked the finality for which many had hoped, but Israel Adesanya cleared the final hurdle standing between him and a shot at the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown with room to spare.
“The Last Stylebender” poked, prodded and outmaneuvered the great Anderson Silva for the better part of three rounds and took a unanimous decision from the future hall of famer in the UFC 234 main event on Saturday at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. All three judges sided with heavily favored Adesanya: 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27. Silva, 43, made headway in the second round and showed flashes of his former self before his younger, faster adversary reclaimed control.
Adesanya doubled up “The Spider” in the significant strikes landed department, according to preliminary FightMetric data and found another gear when it mattered most. He outlanded Silva by a 25-5 margin in the third round, removing any thought of an upset.
In the aftermath of UFC 234 “Adesanya vs. Silva,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker-Kelvin Gastelum winner: Adesanya, now 16-0, must take a wait-and-see approach while the situation between Whittaker and Gastelum plays out. Originally scheduled to defend his middleweight championship against Gastelum in the main event, Whittaker instead was forced to withdraw at the last minute and undergo emergency hernia surgery. Whittaker-Gastelum figures to be rescheduled in the not-too-distant future, perhaps as soon as early summer. However, should Whittaker remained sidelined for any significant amount of time, the UFC would likely look at other options, including an Adesanya-Gastelum showdown for an interim middleweight title.
Ricky Simon vs. Cory Sandhagen: Simon and his glorious mullet made their most significant move yet in the UFC’s bantamweight division by cruising to a unanimous decision over 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Rani Yahya. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25. Simon knocked down the longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt twice in the first round, remained the aggressor across the majority of the three-round battle and kept him off-balance with heavy power punches and well-disguised takedowns. Only on a few occasions did he venture into Yahya’s venomous guard, and he lived to tell the tale. Simon has now recorded eight consecutive victories. The 26-year-old Sandhagen extended his current winning streak to five fights with a first-round armbar submission on Mario Bautista at UFC Fight Night 143 on Jan. 19.
Montana De La Rosa vs. Mara Romero Borella: De la Rosa pieced together her most complete performance to date, as she submitted the previously unbeaten Nadia Kassem with an armbar in the second round of their women’s flyweight showcase. Kassem bowed out 2:37 into Round 2, having been thoroughly dominated for the entirety of the encounter. De la Rosa executed takedowns in both rounds, assumed top position and went to work with ground-and-pound and submission attempts. In the middle stanza, she climbed to mount, secured a topside triangle and transitioned between the choke and the armbar before she found the right combination and prompted the verbal submission. American Top Team’s Borella, 32, has won five of her past six bouts and last fought at UFC Fight Night 144, where she pocketed a split decision over the previously unbeaten Taila Santos on Feb. 2.
Jim Crute vs. Gian Villante-Michal Oleksiejczuk winner: Crute kept his perfect professional record intact and improved to 10-0, as he put away Sam Alvey with punches in the first round of their light heavyweight attraction. It was not without controversy. Crute folded Alvey with a short right hook and walked away like the job was finished, only to see the Team Quest mainstay rise on shaky legs and stumble backward. The 22-year-old Aussie gave chase, fired a head kick and pulled guard before rolling into the top-ride position. From there, Crute pounded away with punches, and despite the fact that “Smilin’ Sam” appeared to be defending himself -- he also gave a thumbs-up sign -- referee Marc Goddard elected to intervene and call for the stoppage 2:49 into Round 1. Alvey immediately protested, to no avail. Villante will face Oleksiejczuk at UFC Fight Night 145 on Feb. 23 in Prague, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship touches down in the Czech Repulic for the first time.